Practice: 4 hours, Concert: 3 hours (West Side Story runs long). Today I started by thinking about my fingers and how sometimes people talk about fingers having “dynamics” independent of the actual sound. “Use forte fingers” people will say, sometimes. In reality I think fingers only really have two “dynamics” – forte and mezzo forte. Anything less would lack clarity, and anything more could be harmful. Either extreme is inefficient. It made me think about other ways in which people tense parts of the body, and why. Personally I have a few things I do, both nearby clarinet-required body parts (neck, arms) and unrelated to clarinet-required body parts (legs, lower back). I was thinking about why I would tense parts of my body that didn’t actually help me play the clarinet. For me I think it creates a false sense of security, feeling like my body is tight therefore so is my mind! Or my embouchure! It’s a lot of wasted effort.
So today’s theme was, every time I repeated an excerpt, I didn’t just try it again in some new and improved way (longer line, firmer embouchure, whatever), I made it a point to do all that stuff and try to do one thing, “less bad.” In my case, I’d try to play the excerpt AND not arch my lower back so much. Or another time I’d try to fix something AND not pull my head towards my shoulders when I begin to play. If I try to think of doing less of those things, I usually find it’s almost as good as the original “fix” I had in mind (longer line, etc.) Going cold turkey and trying to force myself to absolutely never do all of those things is too challenging. But it’s easy to think about just one thing I’d like to minimize. Breathe big, relax the lower back, un-tense my shoulders. One thing at a time. As the day went on, I could fix the “one thing” quicker each time, until it was fixed before I thought about it.